Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Nyla, the Shepherd's Daughter

Nyla, the Shepherd's Daughter

This is a fictional story. A story borne out of my desire to be standing next to the manger when my Savior was brought to earth in the form of a baby. The only way I could think to have that happen, since I'm a girl, would be to be a little girl whose biggest wish was to spend the day with her Father in the field with the sheep. Finally she got her chance and on that day the Angels came and told them about this newborn Baby King. (Scripture taken from the NLT version of the Christmas story found in the book of Luke)

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"But Mama, whyyyyyyy can't I go? I'm really good at keeping an eye on things! Just this morning you asked me to keep an eye on Mara while you ran to the market, and when you got home you told me I did a great job! Pleeeeeeaaaaasssseeee, may I go to the field with Papa?" Nyla pled with her mother as they pulled the bucket up from the well. Her greatest desire was to spend time in the fields with her father, brothers, and uncles. I guess you could say she was the original tomboy.

Nine year old Nyla was Peter and Deborah's daughter. Peter was a Shepherd by trade. He cared for a flock of 800 sheep with his brothers, Dan, Paul, Isaiah and Jordan; his sons, Asher, Abraham and Benjamin, and a few men from the village who had become more than coworkers, but were much like family. She was always there to help with the sheep whenever she could. Shearing time meant carrying the wool in from the wagon to her mother and then joining her in spinning it into yarn to make the blankets they would sell in the marketplace. When a newborn lamb was in need of care she would often be asked to help care for it. She loved the sheep and lambs, but most of all she loved her Papa, and, contrary to cultural tradition, he adored her, too.

Peter knew it wasn't right to let his daughter think she could do the things the boys could do. It would not be helpful to her when she got older and got married, that's for sure. She would be too much like the man she married if he wasn't careful. He couldn't help it, though! She was such a hard worker and, unlike his sons at times, she had a gentle connection with the sheep that made it easier on all of them when they needed to calm the herd down. As much as he hated to admit it, she, of all of his children, was the natural shepherd. Surely Jehovah created her that way for a reason, right? What would it hurt to have her join them in the fields this time? His mind was made up, he'd talk to Deborah about Nyla coming with them for the next trip out.

"OH, Papa!! THANK YOU! thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!! I'll be the hardest worker out there, just you wait and see!"

Nyla had just been told she would be coming with the men to the fields for the next few weeks. She was thrilled beyond belief! SHE was going to the fields! Little did she know, though, that she was in for a lot more than spending time doing what she loved to do. Her life was about to be changed in a way she had never dreamed.

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"That Nyla sure is a hard worker, Peter" Dan said to his brother. "Now I know why you wanted to let her come with us. It was a good decision. Jehovah help her future husband, though!" The men all laughed at Dan's joke and nodded in agreement.

Nyla was thoroughly enjoying every task she was given by her father, uncles and brothers. Every day she spent in the fields was like confirmation that she was to be a shepherdess. She dreaded the day when she would have to marry and become a wife and mother who stayed home and cared for the house, kids and chores. She was made to be in the fields caring for the sheep and reveling in the wonder of the world around her.

There were times, when she had night duty, that she would sit and stare at the stars above her. She would recall the scriptures her father had read saying the heavens declare His majesty and knew it to be true. Being a ways outside of Bethlehem, in the stillness of the night with just the bleating of the sheep to remind her she was not the only being on earth, she couldn't help but sit in awe of Jehovah G-d. Her family took the Torah seriously. Jehovah was very real to her. She wondered about the Messiah sometimes, too, asking the sky if it would happen in her lifetime. Would she know Him when He came?

Maybe it was Herod.

NO! He was so mean! So full of himself. Certainly not the kind of servant-leader the Messiah would be.

Nyla sighed and prayed in her heart that she would recognize the Messiah when he came. A sheep bleated then and pulled her out of her revery, back to the task at hand.

--

They were all standing around the fire when it seemed the sky burst into flame. It was so bright! What on earth??? Not one of them remained standing for long as they fell to their knees in fear. These men (and one little girl) who were to be brave in the midst of danger were kneeling with hands up to shield their eyes when they heard the voice.

"Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

The men (and one little girl) slowly stood up and murmuring of questions could be heard as they wondered what the angel meant. They didn't stand for long, though, as they fell to their knees again seeing a vast choir of angels join the one who had spoken. They burst into song like none they had ever heard before.

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Nyla knelt with the others, her eyes wide and her mouth hung open. The Messiah? THE Messiah? Really? But the angel said he was a, a, a BABY. The Messiah was a baby? He was supposed to be a King, but how would a baby save the world?

She finally realized the angels were gone and her father, uncles and brothers were talking about going to Bethlehem to see this newborn baby. She needed to keep on task! She wasn't about to miss this opportunity!!!

--

None of them had stopped talking about the angel's visit and discussing what they might find when they got to the city. It would be so crowded with the city jam-packed full of everyone there for the census. How would they find Him?

Nyla was too small to be noticed by the men, so she simply walked along with them looking up and talking to Jehovah in her heart.

"Oh, Jehovah! How incredible my life is in You! First I get to spend time in the fields doing what I love, and now I'm on my way to meet the Messiah! Who am I that my life is so blessed by You? What a surprise, too, to be told the Messiah isn't actually a grown man, but a baby! A BABY! Ah, will Your creativity never end? A nine year old girl made to be a shepherdess, and a Savior born like all of us. Like each star I see in the heavens Your ability to catch us off guard never ends."

--

"Father! Look! Behind that inn. There seems to be a glow coming from the barn. Could that be? The angel did say the baby would be in a manger. Isn't that strange, Father? That the Messiah would be born in a barn and laid in a trough the animals eat out of?"

"That is strange, indeed, little Nyla. However, we must remember what Jehovah tells us in the Holy Scriptures - His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He will never cease to amaze us in the ways He works if we just keep our eyes open looking for Him at work. Let's go see what that glow is all about."

So Nyla and her father, uncles and brothers walked toward the barn behind the Bethlehem Inn to see what this strange glow was. As they drew nearer they noticed the animals seemed to be unusually quiet and, was it possible they were....reverent? A hush seemed to encompass the barn. A holy hush. The city bustled about, but as they drew closer it was as if the sounds melted away like the snow from their clothing when they came down from the hills.

Nyla couldn't help herself. She started to walk faster and faster until she nearly ran to the door of the barn to peek inside. What she saw was breathtaking!

Laid in the manger - the very place from where the animals ate - was a bundle of cooing newborn. His mother was beside him, and his father on the other side. Cows, sheep, donkeys and other barn animals surrounded them. They all faced the manger, too, as if they knew this baby wasn't just a baby.

As Nyla stood transfixed the baby's mother (the Messiah has a mother?!) looked up and smiled.

"Come, little one. Meet your Jesus."

Nyla started. Did she say "your Jesus"? MY Jesus? Yes. Yes, she knows that this baby isn't hers, but ours. Our World's Messiah. She knows.

Slowly Nyla made her way to the manger where the human form of her Heavenly Messiah lay. She could not stop the tears from rolling down her cheeks. She could not help that her hand reverently reached out to hold the hand of the very One who had come to earth to save the world. She could not have stopped herself from kneeling if she had tried. This. This baby was a KING. He wasn't just a newborn child, but He was a Savior - a Messiah - sent to earth from God.

There was no stopping the others, either. As they knelt in reverent worship of a baby they knew was their Savior, the baby's Mother and Father looked on in awe. How did they know? How did they know to find them here?

Of course they knew. They themselves were visited by angels, why would Jehovah keep this child a secret?

As Nyla knelt she felt a hand on her head and looked up. Mary, the baby's mother, had gently laid her hand on Nyla's hair, and she had the sweetest look of contentment on her face. Nyla knew the angel was surely sent from Heaven to bring them to this place. She knew, too, that her life would never be the same. Not only would she be a shepherdess, but she would be a storyteller to anyone who would listen. She would tell all she could about the night her life was changed. The night she met and held hands with the Messiah

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